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Falsificationism Essay, Research Paper
There is often a heated debate on whether or not a theory is scientific. This debate brings to light a problem named the demarcation problem. This problem simply asks how one distinguishes between science and non-science. This is a very important question especially in examining separation of church and state. The demarcation problem is apparent when schools are unsure as to whether or not they should teach creationism as a possible scientific theory. Schools are to teach science, but how does one tell the difference between a scientific theory and a theological one. In order to find a solution to the demarcation problem one might look towards falsificationism. Falsificationism states that a theory is scientific if and only if it is falsifiable or verifiable. In other words if a theory, T, is testable, then it is scientific. With falsificationism, guidelines are used to decipher between testable and not testable therefore scientific and non-scientific respectively. So by using falsificationism consistently one should be able to solve the demarcation problem. But within falsificationism, some contradictions have arisen and from these, three versions of falsificationism have been formulated.
Version one is as follows: A theory T is scientific if and only if it is possible to deduce from T at least one prediction about the results of observation. This theory states that a theory, in order to be scientific, needs no additional premises or auxiliary hypotheses in order to be tested. In order to show the error in this version, one needs to examine Newtonian mechanics. Newtonian mechanics are a number of theories that deal with the motion of objects when acted on by additional forces. If one were to use the premise set forth in version one when determining whether or not Newtonian mechanics is scientific, then those theories would result in being classified as non-scientific. This, however, is clearly not the case for Newtonian mechanics are the basis for much scientific work. The reason for these theories being misclassified, is that in order for Newtonian mechanics to be considered testable, one needs to include additional premises on the forces that have acted on the object and cause its motion. Because auxiliary hypotheses are needed, Newtonian mechanics is misclassified as non-scientific according to version one.
The second version states that a theory T is scientific if and only if it is possible to deduce from T with auxiliary hypotheses, at least one prediction about the results of observation. This version tends to classify clearly non-scientific theories, as scientific by basing the test on unrelated, observation predictions. An example of how this is done is as follows. Let T be any theory. Let S be any statement in T. Then let O be any observation prediction. Finally, let A consist of if S then O. For example, the theory, T, to be proven scientific states that ghosts exist and are among us every day. This is then related to an observation prediction as follows. T is scientific if it snows more than two inches tomorrow. It is now possible to test the theory by basing the test on an unrelated observation prediction, which is the weather. Now that the theory is testable using the auxiliary hypothesis, by version two, it is considered to be scientific. This theory is clearly non-scientific but is still missclassified by version two. Because of the lack of specific guidelines in version two, this version lacks reliability.
The final version, version three, says that a theory T is scientific if and only if it is possible to deduce from T with scientific auxiliary hypothesis, at least one prediction about the results of observation. Within this version lies a never-ending loop. This version is proposing a solution as to how to determine science from non-science, but in order to use this version one must already know what is and is not scientific in order to determine which auxiliary hypothesis can be used. Because the version must be used in defining a part of itself, it becomes circular and therefore totally unreliable.